"Justice like lightning!"
That's the catchphrase of the Thunderbolts - one of Marvel's most fascinating teams. The Thunderbolts were created in 1997, a superhero team whose comic book début came at a time Marvel had killed off many of their greatest heroes. It didn't take long for readers to get a shock, though; the Thunderbolts were actually a band of super-villains, the Masters of Evil.
So is this just Marvel's answer to Suicide Squad?
Not at all; the Thunderbolts were a public superhero team, but also one with some dark agendas. Their founder, Baron Zemo, believed he could lead the Thunderbolts to a position of trust and power. He then planned to sell the secrets he gained access to. For several other team-members, though, the Thunderbolts was a shot at redemption. He was ultimately rejected as leader - and replaced by Hawkeye!
DC's Suicide Squad are a black ops team composed of supervillains who have no choice. The Thunderbolts are a public group of superheroes, all with secretly shady origins, and seriously mixed agendas.
Of course, the sad thing is that Marvel wouldn't be able to truly replicate the excitement of the Thunderbolts. When the Thunderbolts first came on the scene, Marvel managed to keep it secret that the group were villains. Thunderbolts #1 is generally viewed as one of the greatest comics of all time, largely because this twist was so unexpected.
Wait, did you mention Baron Zemo?
Yes! Baron Zemo - making his début in Captain America: Civil War - is the founder of the Thunderbolts, and his best stories have constantly circled back to the pages of Thunderbolts. We don't yet know how Daniel Brühl's character will play out, nor do we know if he'll make it out of this film alive (let's face it, villains don't have a good life-expectancy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe). But should he survive, there's absolutely no reason Zemo couldn't step up to become a major player.
So who else is in the Thunderbolts?
The Thunderbolts have had several line-ups since their first appearance - even one including the Punisher and Elektra! That said, the iconic team is the best-known, and are actually being reassembled in the wake of Marvel's Standoff event. These members are:
Probably the most popular of the Thunderbolts, Melissa Gold was originally the supervillain known as Screaming Mimi. She has tremendous sonic powers, literally creating physical forces through manipulation of sonic waves. Of the Thunderbolts, Songbird is the most set on pursuing redemption, and has finally stepped up to become a member of the latest New Avengers team.
Meteorite / Moonstone
Psychologist Karla Sofen is ruthless and manipulative; she's bonded to a Kree gemstone, granting her tremendous strength, speed, and resistance to injury. She also has some minor energy-manipulation powers, as well as the ability to become intangible.
Moonstone makes a wonderful foil for Songbird; she's ruthless and manipulative, and is a particularly potent enemy for Captain Marvel.
MACH-I through MACH-V
Formerly a Spider-Man villain known as the Beetle, Abner Jenkins invented his own powerful exo-armour and used it as a supervillain. As a Thunderbolt, he's continually upgraded his armour - taking on a new codename each time. Along with Songbird, Jenkins is a character who's genuinely on a path of redemption.
Originally the ruthless genius known as the Fixer, Paul Ebersoi was a scientist with ties to organisations like Hydra. Techno has a long history of supervillainy, and sided with Zemo against the others. He's probably Zemo's most dangerous ally, a genius inventor whose intelligence rivals Tony Stark.
Originally a size-changing villain known as Goliath, Erik Josten had a long history as a supervillain but began to enjoy the public attention. He's had a difficult time as a hero, with unstable powers and a great deal of distrust from the superhero community.
How could this work as a movie?
Imagine it; a superhero team emerges, and the world watches in delight as they prove more reliable than the Avengers. Perhaps, unlike the Avengers, they prove better at handling collateral damage? Unknown to the world, though, they've been assembled by Baron Zemo with less-than-noble intentions.
Over the course of the film, a moral divide emerges that turns Thunderbolt against Thunderbolt; Songbird and MACH-whatever against Zemo and Techno, with Moonstone as a wild card. You could even have Jeremy Renner working with the heroes as Hawkeye.
It would be a superhero film like no other, with redemption played out as a central theme in a rather fascinating way. It would also end up with two new superheroes added to the MCU, one of which would be the fan-favourite Songbird. All in all, I really do think the Thunderbolts could add something very, very special to the MCU.